A guide to the digital transformation of the agri-food chain

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Chains, Filiere

Being a farmer today is not like being a farmer 50 years ago. The agri-food chain, like the whole industry, has been hit by a wave of digitalization that has upset old paradigms and inaugurated a new season. How to best deal with it? A brief guide. 

The advent of digital technology in farms has decreed the transition to Agriculture 4.0, characterized by the centrality and the use of data in order to allow farmers to make better decisions. An innovation that can bring uncertainties, but also great opportunities: increase in productivity and efficiency, decrease in environmental impact, improvement of the working conditions of operators, traceability of products are just some examples of the potential advantages that a digitalized and based-on-data agriculture can bring to both industry professionals and society. 

xFarm was created with the aim of catalyzing and facilitating the journey of its users (who have now become more than 80thousand) towards the digital transformation of the agricultural sector. A journey that today involves more than one million hectares belonging to the most heterogeneous farms in terms of extension, geographical area, production direction, needs and business objectives. 

The true potential of digital transformation, however, is revealed in its entirety only when all the players in the agri-food supply chain, from farm to fork, are in the position of benefiting from the power of data. 

In recent decades there has been an important growth in supply chains, which increasingly represent a point of reference for the farmer. In fact, to be competitive and successful it is pivotal to work as a team, especially in a fragmented and heterogeneous agricultural context like the Italian one. Furthermore, given the growing consumers’ attention to sustainability, supply chains must equip themselves to produce an estimate of their environmental impact as close to reality as possible. 

To do this, a lot of data is needed: data collection and analytics platforms become indispensable. At xFarm, we work to ensure that the digital transformation of large agri-food companies, associations and cooperatives with which we collaborate takes place in the most natural and effective way possible. Based on our experience, we have decided to share with you some tips that we believe are useful for a successful digital transformation of the agri-food supply chain. 

A brief guide to a successful digital transformation of the agri-food chain 

1. Think big, but start “small” 

We cannot expect all farms to be ready to transform at the same time. We must be realistic, and understand that some companies, for structural, personal or predisposition reasons, are more “ready” than others. Well, these companies will be the ones to start the transformation process. 

In this way, starting with a small group, it will be possible to make sure that all companies are able to use the platform correctly, testing its effectiveness and putting into practice any corrections. After this testing phase, it will be possible to proceed with the rest of the companies involved in the supply chain. 


2. Learning the basics: training and assistance 

Everyone needs to be aware of what is happening, and understand the practical implications. It is therefore necessary to provide information to all the actors involved in the supply chain (customers, suppliers, technicians, agronomists) through training days, specific webinars, ad hoc communications addressed to all farmers and immediate support in case of technical problems or malfunctions. At this point, farmers who are already familiar with the new tools will, spread the use of digital tools and encourage best practices among those who just started the digital transformation process. 

In xFarm we see it every day: the highest experts of our digital tools are the users themselves. For this reason, exchanging and sharing good practices among peers are the best ways to learn and spread knowledge. 

3. Scale up: the more we are, the furthest we will go  

Key concept: scalability. That is, to increase the user base of the digital platform, involving all companies, cooperatives, storage centers and industries in the supply chain, always for the necessary training. Once all users are registered in the xFarm platform and have entered (traced?) their plots, it will be possible to view a multitude of data entered by the farmers themselves about the status of the production: yield, field records, amounts delivered, all through a single platform, all in one place. If everyone uses the platform in a virtuous way, the final product will acquire value, benefiting the entire supply chain. 


4. Digitalization enters the supply chain contracts 

Bringing digitization into contracts can be an excellent way not only to promote digital transformation within the supply chain, but also to valorise efforts through outward-oriented communication, in such a way as to reach end consumers, which will thus be more involved in the production process. 


5. Continuous monitoring 

To keep the situation under control, and to constantly make sure that the data collected are of high quality, it is essential to constantly monitor the situation and make the necessary adjustments, also by relying on professional support. According to our experience in supporting the digital transformation of the agri-foodfood sector, there is no “perfect recipe”: each situation is different. 


The xFarm team is here to help 

Grounding a change of these proportions, especially in the case of the complex system that makes up the agri-food supply chains, cannot be taken for granted. 

The xFarm team, made up of managers, agronomists and engineers, is available to accompany large companies, cooperatives, producer associations in the conversion to its digital ecosystem, through tailor-made solutions. Thanks to the experience gained by studying and developing ad hoc technologies for each crop, and to a platform designed to be as adaptable as possible to the needs of the industry, we are able to support many different supply chains and to guarantee flexibility, speed and effectiveness. 

To find out more about how to start the digital transformation of agricultural supply chains, visit the professional services page of our website. 

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